The QuasiChristian

Critical Thinking and Spiritual Reasoning

The Harlot Shall Be Burned with Fire: Biblical Literalism in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Religion Dispatches: Sarah Sentilles

I must admit that part of me is relieved to have these disturbing passages out in public. These bloody verses that insist women be punished with violent death—often for perceived or imagined sexual transgressions—are usually overlooked, downplayed, skipped over, ignored. Most people like to pretend they aren’t really in the text. Especially people who claim to take the Bible literally.

Passages like these should render biblical literalism impossible. Their existence illuminates that literalists always engage in selective literalism, choosing the passages that support the arguments they want to make. And what is the rubric for selective literalism other than convenience and the maintenance of oppressive power relationships? When faced with such verses—or even passages about keeping kosher or not being around women who are menstruating—many a literalist will argue something like “that was then and this is now,” while in the very next breath (I’m talking to you, Rick Santorum, and you, Michele Bachmann) they’ll insist that homosexuality is an abomination or that women should submit to their husbands. Why? Because it’s in the Bible.

The film could, in fact, be read as an argument against biblical literalism; a warning about the misogynist violence embedded in the biblical text…

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January 14, 2012 Posted by | Biblical Criticism, Biblical Studies, Women | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rick Warren’s Illiteracy Problem


English: PressKit photo of Rick Warren

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The Christian Post reported recently that megapastor Rick Warren has discerned a significant problem among American Christians: Biblical illiteracy. In the face of this, he’s launching a new Bible study called “40 Days in the Word.” In a year-end webcast he plugged the new study, insisting that “Americans are biblically illiterate. They just don’t know the Word of God… Our parents’ generation knew the Word of God pretty well. My generation knew a little bit. The next generation knows none of it.”

He may be right. Over the last several years it has become clear that American Christians know little about the Bible, and in 2010 Pew study atheists and agnostics performed better on a test of basic biblical knowledge than did Christians. It’s a problem. Christians should know more about the book they profess to love. They should not be biblically illiterate.

But there are other kinds of illiteracy. There is, for example, scientific illiteracy. It too is a problem in America. And there is evidence that it is related to religious beliefs. This is hardly surprising. When one is raised to see science as the enemy of faith; when churches actively work against science education; when a literal understanding of Genesis is a requirement for faculty at major seminaries, scientific literacy suffers.

It is easy to blame extreme anti-science people like Albert Mohler and Ken Ham for this problem, and some responsibility does fall on them.

But I suspect more moderate leaders like Warren have a lot to do with it.

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I agree with Jim Reed’s comment in response.

To be biblically literate do you also have to understand the problems with the Bible such as questions about authorship, unresolved contradictions, and things that are shown by science to be wrong? I would think you do. Without that understanding your biblical literacy is really only Christian propaganda. This might be the case with Rick Warren. His biblical literacy might depend on one accepting the conservative Christian perspective is divinely inspired.

And DanVoj’s comment.

Warren wants people to know more about what the Bible literally says than what we should know about it.

It all comes down to control: memorizing the Bible is one thing, while analyzing it is another. Control can always be had from illiteracy. Now, Warren’s statement is the same as many other “pastors” around the country, but you don’t see them recommending a scholar like Bart Ehrman for follow-up analysis. THEY are the true analysts, and they will ultimately tell you what to think.

Warren wants people to be Bible-savants, not analytical Christians.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Biblical Criticism, Christian Education, Current Events, Science | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Archaeology Killed Biblical History


The more we discover about the ancient world, the less reliable we find the Bible.

Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion.

First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings.

Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.

January 1, 2012 Posted by | Atheism/Agnosticism, Biblical Criticism (Video), Biblical Scholarship | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year. Same Old Story. Or Not.


Sadly, many are attracted to Christianity because it’s presented as a haven from the struggles and strains of everyday life. Browse the shelves of Christian bookstores (brick and mortar or online). Notice the numerous books that target the emotionally needy—individuals who need a quick fix to satisfy their insatiable addiction to having their spiritual ego stroked. Modern Christianity places an enormous emphasis on the special believer. Some go through life attempting to execute steps and techniques to solidify their anticipated place in heaven. We all fall short of the glory of God is a phrase proudly proclaimed in Christian circles. This keeps believers ripe for any new book, conference, or sermon which purports to unveil how to strengthen one’s walk in Christ or gain unlimited favor of the Father.

It’s common for people to profess the faith of their parents. In fact, that’s how most become Christians in America. They are Christian by default. Very few undertake a personal study of Christianity prior to declaring Jesus their Lord and Savior. As a result, they are ignorant of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Decades later, still clueless.

The prevalence of biblical ignorance among black Christians is disturbing. Not surprising, yet disturbing nonetheless. This is a topic I’ll address in a future post. If you’re a Christian and can’t articulate what that means from a historical perspective, then you need to educate yourself. Not with the latest re-packaged Joel Osteen or T.D. Jakes books. Not with evangelical material that offers several steps to fill-in-the-blank. Biblical literacy (memorized Bible verses don’t count) begins with one step: Step outside of your comfort zone and examine your faith critically. Don’t get offended when asked about the Christian faith. Who? What? When? Why? How? You should be able to articulate well-reasoned answers. But you won’t find answers on Wednesday/Thursday nights at your church. Your children aren’t given this information in Awana. Remember the United Negro College Fund slogan “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”. It applies here as well.

This is the time of year when many embark on resolutions made for the next 12 months. Add this to your list: To read the Bible in its entirety using critical thinking skills. Simply employ logic and reason when analyzing passages.

As a general rule, critical thinking involves developing some emotional and intellectual distance between yourself and ideas — whether your own or others’ — in order to better evaluate their truth, validity, and reasonableness.

Critical thinking is an effort to develop reliable, rational evaluations about what is reasonable for us to believe and disbelieve. Critical thinking makes use of the tools of logic and science because it values skepticism over gullibility or dogmatism, reason over faith, science of pseudoscience, and rationality over wishful thinking. Critical thinking does not guarantee that we will arrive at truth, but it does make it much more likely than any of the alternatives do.

I’ve made one promise for 2012. Stay rational.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Apologetics, Biblical Studies, Christian Education, Spiritual Reasoning | , , , , | 2 Comments